Thursday, April 19, 2018
Business

Whole Foods Market philosophy breeds a healthy workplace

CARROLLWOOD

Here in his element, among the rows of beautiful, bright produce, Josh Crawford has become very good at spotting the uncomfortable. He sidles up to them, the first timers, the ones whose doctors told them they need to eat better, and gently asks if they need help.

Most say things like, "I'm supposed to eat more kale." Crawford, an employee at Whole Foods Market in Carrollwood, shows them what they are looking for, tells them the health benefits and his favorite recipes. He loves helping people. Like most employees at Whole Foods — which was ranked 16th out of 30 best midsize companies to work for in the Tampa Bay area — Crawford lives and believes in the store's healthy living philosophy. He eats no meat or dairy, though he has some fish a few times a month. Two avocados a day. Lots and lots of kale.

"We improve lives," said Crawford, 26.

Whole Foods has two locations in Hillsborough, one in Tampa and the Carrollwood store, which opened in November. Both stores employ 342 people. Though it is new, the Carrollwood employees say they feel a camaraderie because of their shared passions.

Though Whole Foods is the eighth largest food and drug company in the United States with $11.8 billion in revenue, many decisions are made at the store level. Anna Payne, Carrollwood's marketing and community outreach team leader, said this gives employees more of a feeling of ownership. Staffers volunteer in the community together and raise money for charities, on their own and by asking customers to pitch in at the register. They choose the charities as a team. Since November, they have raised nearly $900 for a student garden at Northwest Elementary School and more than $2,000 for a community garden in Carrollwood. They also raised more than $12,000 for the Whole Planet Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Whole Foods to provide microloans to people around the world.

"I really believe in a healthy world with healthy people," said Michelle Irene, a cashier who has worked for the company for 10 years. Irene said there are other reasons why Whole Foods is a top workplace. She said employees are treated fairly. Part-time employees can get medical benefits. The company hosts employee appreciation week once a year where staffers are feted with food and their store discounts are doubled. Hard work is noticed and rewarded.

"I love working here," she said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

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